Unplayable Lie (Josh Griffin 1) by Caleigh O’Shea

A strong début…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Thirteen-year-old Lexi Carlisle is already famous in her home state of Texas. A budding golf player, she looks set to be a future champion. When she goes missing, the police and even her parents think at first that maybe she’s just off doing something she doesn’t want her parents to know about – she’s a good kid but she’s at that rebellious stage. But when time goes on, worry turns to fear – and then the ransom note arrives. Meantime, local journalist Josh Griffin is hanging onto his job by his fingernails – he needs a big story and he needs it soon. So when he gets a tip-off about Lexi’s disappearance, at first he’s thrilled. But Lexi’s mother, Amanda, was Josh’s college sweetheart and he soon finds himself torn between getting the scoop and helping Amanda find her daughter…

This is Caleigh O’Shea’s début novel and before I begin I shall make my usual disclaimer – under her real name, Caleigh is a long-term blog buddy of mine, so you should assume that there may be some bias in my review. However, as always, I’ll try to be as honest as possible.

The book is a traditional thriller – ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events – and O’Shea has used this format very effectively. The pacing is excellent – the story keeps moving along, with time for us to get to know the main characters but without too much back story holding up the flow. Although the series title suggests Josh will be the main character, in fact Amanda is the character we spend most time with.

Truthfully, I didn’t find either of them particularly appealing in the early chapters. Josh seems deeply unsympathetic to Amanda’s worry over her daughter, getting quite huffy when she makes it clear that giving him a good story isn’t her primary concern. Equally, Amanda seemed quite cold and controlled considering the circumstances, reacting too calmly and almost unfeelingly to major events which should, I felt, have upset her hugely. I also felt that while Nee-Hi, Amanda’s little dog, brought a lot of warmth into the story, humanising Amanda’s character, there were perhaps too many repetitions of the day-to-day stuff of dog-caring – letting him out to pee, feeding him, putting him in and out of his carry box, etc.

However, I warmed to both of them as time went on. (Josh and Amanda, that is. I didn’t need to warm to Nee-Hi – I fell in love with him immediately!) Josh gradually begins to get his priorities right, and in the later chapters especially we see more deeply into Amanda’s feelings. By the halfway point I had grown to like them both and was therefore fully invested in their welfare as the action ramped up in the second half. I wondered, as I often do with débuts, whether the book had been written linearly – the second half feels much more skilled in showing emotion realistically than the first, as if O’Shea’s style and, perhaps, confidence had been developing as she went along.

Caleigh O’Shea

The plot is more complex than it first appears – this is no random kidnapping of a rich kid. There’s a motive here, and a mystery which gives Josh a chance to use his journalistic skills to uncover what’s really going on. The police are involved but their suspicions are centred on this being some kind of domestic thing between Lexi’s divorced parents, so Amanda and Josh have to do their own investigating. And in true thriller fashion, eventually all the strands come together in a dramatic but credible denouement, in which I was delighted that neither Amanda nor Josh suddenly turned into unbelievable superheroes. For my liking, the body count was a little high, with a couple of events that I didn’t feel were necessary and which made the story rather bleaker than my taste runs to, but that’s a subjective point.

Overall, then, a strong début with a good plot, great pacing, an exciting and believable climax, and main characters whom I grew to care about. I’m looking forward to seeing how Caleigh, Josh (and maybe Amanda?) develop as the series progresses.

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37 thoughts on “Unplayable Lie (Josh Griffin 1) by Caleigh O’Shea

  1. This is on my TBR and I am so looking forward to reading it! Absolutely delighted it is a strong debut for our friend and she deserves every success. Can’t wait to get around to this, even if the dog does go out for a wee a lot!! 😉

    • Hehe – always better when a pet goes out to wee rather than opting for the indoors alternative… *gazes at Tommy* It’s a goodie though – I think you’ll enjoy it. No trogs in it, though, disappointingly… 😉

          • Hahahaha!! You can certainly attend to the call of nature, but probably not in a fictional novel!! Now, you see, I’m thinking if I have read a book where the characters make a point of visiting the smallest room. I feel an additional scene being slipped into my new PG novel… 😉

            • Phew! I didn’t realise you meant fictional characters – what a relief! Yes, I agree – ablutions should be left firmly to the imagination. Noooooooooooo!!! Don’t do it!!!!!!!!!

            • Don’t worry, I don’t think my descriptive powers are quite up to it. My characters will continue to consume enormous amounts of tea and sausage sandwiches without any apparent consequence 😀

  2. This does sound good, FIctionFan. I always respect it when an author invites you to get to like the characters, especially if you don’t at first. That takes talent. And it sounds as though the plot is rich, too – always a plus with me. And there’s a dog, so what’s not to like?

    • A very promising debut, Margot – always good to see another of my talented blog buddies go into print! And the dog’s a lovely touch, especially since he doesn’t come into peril… 🙂

  3. Nee-hi – I love it! Sounds an interesting start to a series, and a journalist is a much more plausible non-police detective than many.

    • Haha – I loved that name too! In fact, poor Tommy’s been being called it for a week now! Yes, and Caleigh/Debbie has a journalistic background herself so she makes it feel authentic.

  4. Your comment about writing linearly and getting stronger reminded me of my music major days (long behind me; I had a C average). We practice songs beginning to end, so the begining was really good and the end would be terrible! There’s this wacky trick of playing it backwards to correct the situation, but I never excelled at it (see C average comment).

  5. You really liked it?? Oh, I’m beyond thrilled, FF — thank you for an honest yet delightful review! You’re absolutely right, of course, on so many points. The publisher edited this novel, but I think they were more focused on formatting than content (thus, the dog’s antics!). And I seem to recall one of my beta readers pointing out that Amanda appeared too stoic at the beginning. I’m over the moon that the ending made this debut worthwhile, that the plotting succeeded, and that overall, I learned SO MUCH from writing it. Your review will help me immensely as I continue the series — it’s like my own chocolate cake or something!

  6. Such a brilliant and honest review which is always hard when you know the author. I’m glad you warmed to Josh and Amanda and that you loved Nee-Hi from the start. Looks like one to check out once I get December out of the way and book acquiring can recommence 😉

    • Aw, thanks, Cleo! 😀 Yes, I always find reviewing friends’ books difficult, but fortunately I seem to have lots of talented friends! The good thing was that, knowing Debbie/Caleigh, I knew Nee-Hi would be kept well away from any nasty stuff, so I could enjoy him without stress… 😉

  7. This sounds like a strong debut, and I absolutely adore the name of that dog. Probably the best pet name I’ve ever come across in my years of reading! I will say though, that cover is….well…it could use some work. Is the book self-published? That might explain the cover, they tend to be dead giveaways of self publishing.

    • Ha, yes, I loved the name Nee-Hi too – in fact poor Tommy has been being called it for a week now. No wonder he’s confused… 😉

      It’s not self-published but I think it’s one of these small independent publishers, probably without a big budget, but I do prefer a more “artwork” approach to covers than photos generally speaking…

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